The Finish Line

Can it be 31 days ago I set out to challenge myself and blog every day? Can October be coming to a close this fast? Can I really have made this much progress in a month on making my house a home? The answer to all of that is yes. Wow.

Not all of my blogs have been Pulitzer material. (Yeah, I’m stretching it to think even one, but a girl can dream, right?) But I was faithful to the task I committed to—blogging daily and sharing the journey of making a house a home after moving as a widow with four kids. And that was a challenge.

SAM_1043 SAM_1039

Today I got to finish on an incredibly high note for me. I got to finally unpack nine boxes of China and serving plates and precious creations by the little hands in my home over the years. I got to fill up my China hutch and proudly display the treasures that live there. Bonus—there’s now more cleared space in my garage. It not only made my home feel more like MINE, it got me a few steps closer to being able to park in my garage before the white stuff starts to fly around here.

This month I’ve not unpacked or decorated every day. But that was part of sharing this journey. Had I employed the household staff of Downton Abby, I might have gotten it all done. But my theme was Bringing Balance Amongst the Boxes. I had to balance exercise and housework; kids’ schedules and my part-time job; unpacking and paying bills; overwhelming grief and the fantastic normalcy of the mundane. It is a balancing act.

This month I also continued to watch God’s faithfulness in action. He loves me so much. Did you know He loves you too? My son bought a shirt that says, “Jesus Loves You. But I’m his favorite.” It made him laugh. My sister said she heard a sermon that stated we should all understand we are God’s favorites. He values us beyond what we can understand.

I have watched as He’s provided the right people to help me at the right times—both with little and big projects. I’ve watched in awe of His financial provision. I will forever speak of the glorious things He has done in my life. He is amazing.

I’ll probably take a breather from blogging for a few days at least. I need to take Sophia, Hermione, the “Gate Guy with the cool keys from Lord of the Rings,” and Eddie Kruger—Freddy’s CPA brother who gives you nightmares about being audited—Trick or Treating tonight. (Seriously, that last one was all his creation and I’m still chucking about the creativity.) Plus I’ve got company coming and more projects to work on.

Thanks for joining me in this journey. Please feel free to share links to any of my blog posts and take time to click “Follow +” button on the bottom corner.

Progress in the Kitchen!

Today I spent my time trying to be productive while staying out of the way of the handyman installing my new tile floor. It was surprisingly exhausting! Trying to stay out of his way and find things I could do left me dragging this evening.

When I moved in here, the glaring question of “what were they thinking” was most evident in my eat-in kitchen/dining room. Every house has that spot where you ask that question. Mine was in the fact that “they” tiled between the center island in the kitchen and the counters. But on the other side, the side where the table resides and next to the dishwasher, they installed carpet.

SAM_1034

Before (please ignore the counter–I was in a hurry!)

With four kids and a dog and my handicapped housekeeping abilities, this was a recipe for disaster. I watched as water from loading the dishwasher splashed onto the carpet time and again. I cringed as Kati shook the A-1 at the table, only to realize the lid was off. Removing this carpet was my first major project.

I found a nice guy who did work for the development I live in, helping them upgrade and prep rental houses. He knew the layout well and could do it in a day or so. His price was fair and I found a good deal on the tile.

Today he arrived and set to work. His assistant had to cancel so he got it 90% done before he had to go. But that 90% looked so much better. And I’m fine with him returning to finish in the morning. It won’t take him long.

The thing I’m most excited about? The eight or so boxes I have in the garage filled with my China and glassware, and special mementos are itching to be unpacked. They call to me when I go into the garage. Tomorrow I finally get to put them in my hutch and display them with pride. It makes me giggly.

SAM_1037

Almost after

So tonight I will get kids ready for bed and gather the last of the piece for each of their Halloween costumes. I will head to bed early, exhausted from a long day. And I will dream of a kitchen/dining room without boxes and without nasty carpet under the table. It’s amazing the things that make us happy once we’re grown-ups, isn’t it?

Pause

Wednesday mornings are the time I’ve set aside to work on my writing. After attending She Speaks Conference this summer, I solidified my passion to be a writer, to call myself a writer, and, hopefully, to see myself published. One of the best take-aways I came home with was to set aside time to write that is guarded and protected. Don’t fill it with coffee dates or cleaning house.

So today I had to go to an appointment after I dropped the kids off at school and I needed to get milk. But then my plan was to come home, ignore my messy house, and write. Words come easily to me. I love story telling and the book I am working on will, I pray, help others who are going through what I have gone through.

But the mess called to me. The laundry called to me. So I decided perhaps while I organized my thoughts I should toss in that load of laundry, put away the groceries, and tidy up a bit so that I am not unfocused in my efforts. As I put the ump-teenth thing away, I uttered a quick prayer, asking God what he wanted me to focus on in my writing today.

And then I felt it—the sense that I needed to stop what I was doing and think about that prayer. I needed to hit “pause.”

Did I want this book to be something that brings hope, encouragement, and healing to widowed moms? Yes.

Did I want God to use my writing for His glory? Yes.

Should my plea for Godly direction, then, be more than a quick thought that flits in and out of my mind while tossing shoes in my closet? Oh. Yes. Most definitely, the answer was yes.

Time spent in the presence of God is never wasted. And time spent asking for His direction is always worthwhile. Perhaps, then, I needed to make time in the “appointment” to write to begin with quiet time with God—quiet time with the purpose of seeking Him first for the day’s writing.

How often do each of us set out to do something for His glory but get caught up in the task without asking Him what He wants? I know I often do. It would be like me decorating a house for someone without asking them what colors they wanted or how they thought the furniture would work best. Though I gave my best, they might not be fully satisfied by the end result.

In the case of my writing this book, I have an audience in mind—widowed moms. But the One beckoning me do the writing must be consulted on how the project should go. And I’m glad He nudges my heart when I forget this essential task.

SAM_0996So I will step away from my computer screen for a while now. I will enjoy this cup of Irish tea and sit down with my devotional book and my Bible and talk to the Director of my performance. I will seek to get my heart in the right place before taking the stage.

Maybe some of you need to do that as well. Step away from the good task you are attempting and make sure it’s the task He set before you and the direction He is leading. The outcome will be amazing, I promise. Take time for a holy pause and watch how much better the finished product becomes.

Perseverance

Perseverance is a virtue. It’s a value I cherish and want my children to learn is worthwhile. I want them to know you finish what you start, what you commit to. Think that’s why I’m plugging away with my 28th day of my 31 day Blog Challenge tonight. Might be the only reason. I started this. I committed to this. I will finish this!

Tonight I hurt. My blessed TRX teacher did her job today and my muscles tonight are protesting loudly. Oh for the love. I hurt. My muscles are screaming at me to go to bed. My son is wanting to finish watching TV with me. So I blog and fight exhaustion. Maybe I can talk him into going to bed once I fulfill my commitment to this blog. The DVR is a blessing in that regard. We can finish it when I am more coherent and not concerned about my muscles atrophying.

Today I made more progress on my home. I went back to Menards and got the right subfloor. Yay for texts from my contractor. And my fantastic friends Mic and Chelsea helped me slide the large pieces of furniture out of the way to make room for the new tile. Pictures will show the before and after on Thursday. A huge project seems a great way to finish this month of blogging.

But as for tonight, that’s all I’ve got. So I will post this blog as a tribute to perseverance. I will keep going until the finish, praying words don’t escape me tomorrow. Only three days left. I can do this. To all my fellow 31 Dayers, you can do this!

It’s a lesson in perseverance and in digging deep as a writer. At least that’s what I hope. 😉

Tiny Victories

Sometimes progress comes in small steps. As I chose the topic for my 31 Day Blog, I was filled with enthusiasm that I would tackle major remodeling things just because I had inspiration and an audience. If you’ve been following my 31 Days of Bringing Balance Amongst the Boxes, you know that has not been the case.

Moving as a widow with four kids comes with baggage. It also comes with balancing everyday life with four kids alongside making progress on the home. I’ve done a few big things. And I’ve had set backs. But for the most part the victories have been small things tackled and accomplished.

Today’s victory was a combination of the two.

First, I headed to the store to get subfloor for my tile install that is happening Thursday. I’m using some of the house proceeds to remove the carpet in my dining area/kitchen. I’ve found a good contractor with a fair price. I’ve gotten all the supplies except this one thing. He told me to head to Mendards and pay for it and he would pick it up. The minivan can only do so much.

While there, I found inspiration for another small step towards organizing success. It was a shoe organizer for my youngest daughter. Of all of us, she is the shoe horse. The reason is she receives hand-me-downs from a friend. Whatever the cause, her closet is a mess and unable to function as it was meant. When I passed the closet section and found a good price on one that would fit, I bought it.

I came home and called my contractor. The guys at the store had not sold me the right thing. That’s fine. I can take it back and get what I need. It will mean another trip but in the scope all the universe, it’s a first world problem. My contractor will call me back with exactly what I should get instead.

IMG_1415I turned my eyes to organizing the shoe debacle. It was another project that took a fraction of the time I feared. Compared to all the stress the mess had caused me over the past few weeks, it was silly how fast I got it cleared up. The finished product will just take teaching my six-year-old how to put her shoes away. But doesn’t it look amazingly improved?

Victories are sometimes huge and sometimes small. They are sometimes just taking care of that annoying thing you keep putting off. Let me be your cheerleader today to just go for it and tackle that odious task making you wince as you read this. Just get it over with and watch how much your stress load lifts. I did it and so can you!

Liberating Boxes

Sometimes at the end of a rough week, Sunday is the best day ever. Today was one of those days.

This week was hard on so many levels. Since I’m in the home stretch of the 31 Day Blog challenge, just scroll down if you want to see why. Yesterday was the turning point into a brighter outlook. Today was intended to be a good day to do nothing. However, we managed to get quite a bit done. Score!

I watched a movie from Netflix with two of my kids and then realized I had the perfect task to tackle when it finished. We tackled a box. Not just unpacking any box. No, this was that box that had lived in the hall since we got here. We kept moving it around, out of the way, but avoiding the odious task of actually sorting through it. Ever have a task like that? You keep putting it off and hiding from it only to realize how much time and energy you are putting into not doing something? That was this box.

I dragged it to the living room and told the three older kids we were tackling this box. It contained tons of odds and ends from our bathrooms. There was deodorant I’d bought the boys that hadn’t worked and hotel shampoos from who knows when. There was stuff we actually wanted to keep but needed to find a home for. I pushed them to unload this box and before we knew it, the cardboard was free to be tossed aside. Yup. We didn’t just unpack. We set a box free!

On a roll now, I sent Ryan and Kati out to the garage to locate any boxes marked “books.” Ryan had finished The Hunger Games and wanted to see what happened next. Somewhere there was a box that contained the rest of our library. Jackpot! Another box located and unpacked.

Each box we find and liberate for use in someone else’s move is one step closer to this being a home. It put me in such a good mood to see those two boxes cleared. When Lucy noted it was the perfect weather to carve pumpkins, I was with her. The bonus was when I realized they were all big enough I didn’t have to get any pumpkin guts under my nails. They could help eachcarving pumpkins other.

They carved and got creative. I made ham, potato, and corn chowder for dinner. Kids were bathed and homework finished. I even got some sewing done for the craft fair looming large on my calendar. It was a productively good day.

So I’ll celebrate the liberation of two more boxes and all the rest of the stuff we accomplished today. Maybe my small steps forward will encourage you to tackle that “box” you keep avoiding, whatever it may be. You can do it!

Redemption of a Bad Day

This has been a tough week. It started last weekend, seemed to improve a bit on Monday and then was a roller coaster of stress and sadness and exhaustion. But God helped me make it through. Seriously, it was an act of The Almighty.

And then this morning I discovered my child had lice. I know. Not that popular of a thing to admit online. But just FYI – lice like clean hair and little kids pass them around like the sniffles when they start going through an elementary school. That’s what started my bad weekend last week. We thought we took care of it. Now another kid has it. Argh. Time to disinfect and treat and do 8 zillion loads of laundry…again.

But you know what? I decided not to let this define our day. I decided that God had helped me make it through a terrible week so He would help me tackle this again.

If Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10, paraphrase), then maybe this day wasn’t lost. Maybe I can put on a smile and tackle all that we need to do without feeling like a leper.

So we cleaned the house and did our chores. I treated the vermin with a shudder and a prayer this will finally do the trick.

SAM_0992I unpacked two more boxes and hung pictures! The walls are screaming at me in their emptiness. Even if I move them later, they are up for now and it made the kids smile.

We went to buy pumpkins from a couple of boys who grow them themselves. They sell them and use good stewardship to save some, spend some, and donate some of the profits. Yay for supporting kids working for their money!

SAM_0991I baked pumpkin zucchini bread and took Lucy to the eye doctor. We discovered she needs glasses at least for the next year. Her growing eyes aren’t making the adjustment from reading up close to reading the board far away. He thinks she might outgrow it. She was excited to get something pink.

Today was not defined by the bad. It was defined by my choice to choose joy. It was redeemed by my choice to keep moving forward no matter what glitches arise. There was redemption in choosing to keep my focus on Jesus and not on pestilence and glasses and more laundry at the end of an exhausting week.

I’m thankful God helps redeem even my worst days. It’s just another example of His gracious love.